Community Agreements

Mission

Astoria Mutual Aid Network aims to meet the needs of Astoria and Long Island City. We believe in solidarity not charity. We recognize that our well-being, health and dignity are all bound up in each other.  We aim to bring people together to provide material support and to build trust based on common interest. Our goal is to leave this disaster better prepared and unified than when we entered it.

The Astoria Mutual Aid Network (AMAN) aims to foster communication and provide space for solidarity through the online forums it maintains and the direct services it provides. To make sure that all community members feel welcome and secure, we ask that everyone agrees to the following guidelines.

In facing the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, communication is essential for assessing and understanding community needs, as well as finding timely solutions.  In order to maintain a space focused on community needs we ask all members to embrace the following values as you engage with one another.

Who We Serve

We are prioritizing folks in Astoria who are sick, unhoused, disabled, quarantined without pay, elderly, undocumented, refugees and immigrants, Black, Indigenous, People of Color, trans and gender non-conforming, and queer.

Community Guidelines

Be curious, open, and respectful as you engage with other community members. We seek first to understand and assume good intent while also acknowledging impact – if something we say or do causes harm we commit to working through it. We must also be willing to deliver and receive feedback honestly and compassionately.

Be constructive not destructive: Approach suggestions with positive, constructive feedback, while limiting criticisms and avoiding ad hominem attacks.

We can’t be articulate all the time: Give the benefit of the doubt when statements leave ambiguity. Accept that folks have a diverse range of experience with different digital tools and communication styles.

Language diversity: We attempt to foster communication as best as we can. Queens is one of the most language diverse areas in the world. Give space and patience when a speaker is holding a conversation in their non-native language.

Take space, make space: Please be aware of how much space you use, especially in the middle of discussions relating to immediate concerns and community members’ needs.  Additionally, We aim to make sure that no one group or demographic monopolizes the conversation.  

Be aware of the time: We all contribute to setting the pace of the meeting and are all accountable for making sure meetings end on time.  Prioritize which ideas you wish to share with the group.

Speak from your own experience:
Use “I statements…” when approaching discussions.  Understand that everyone has valuable knowledge to disseminate and that no one person has a monopoly on legitimate knowledge.  

Challenge Assumptions:  Before posting, please be aware of what assumptions you hold, and be open to having your assumptions challenged. That includes asking ourselves hard questions: Why do I believe this? What am I afraid of? What am I gaining or losing by trying on a new perspective? The answers that stick with us are the ones that we come up with ourselves. Dialogue and exchange of ideas helps us come up with our own answers.

Have conversations based on what was actually said: Often our translation of people’s ideas is far from the actual message they were sharing. Be sure to engage with people based on their actual words and not what you assume those words meant. If you are unsure, ask for clarity.

Jargon Giraffe: Please stay away from acronyms and jargon as to allow everyone to come feel welcomed and included in public conversations. If you don’t understand something that has been written, ask!

Confidentiality: What occurs in the meeting, stays in the meeting.  

Strive for inclusion: Understand that while these forums are channels for information, they do not necessarily represent the community as a whole.  As a community we must always point out when diversity is not present and strive to bring people into the conversations.  

Rooted in human dignity: We are a diverse community of individuals, groups, and interests. Astoria Mutual Aid Network is one amongst a chorus of voices in Western Queens. As an organization will collectively amplify messages and pursue work which centers the dignity of all residents and is rooted in the demonstrated and explicitly stated needs of ourselves and our neighbors. Any action we undertake as a community must also be consistent with our values stated above.

How Decisions are Made

Our horizontal structure is based on autonomous decision-making within subgroups. As long as the decision doesn’t impact overall group structure, other committees, and/or conflict with our stated mission & community agreements, then teams are free to develop projects as they see fit. Groups should proactively report back to the group on its progress and new initiatives at Org Meetings.

If the initiative/project may or does conflict, it should be brought up for discussion at the next Org Meeting AND/OR posted on a dedicated slack channel (#4-urgent-decisions) for at least 72 hours. If no one responds in the negative it is seen as group acceptance. These forums are where risk/benefit can be evaluated, and questions/clarifications can be asked of the team heading a project. These forums are also where collaboration between teams can occur.  

A positive example of autonomous decision making is the food team. They did an excellent job collaborating with pantries, as well as getting a van to make deliveries. They coordinated with the tech team to change the AirTable options so that dispatchers could request a ticket go to them. They communicated that process change to Dispatchers via existing Dispatcher training materials and meetings.